By John Z. Auxiliar de Conversación in Murcia 2019/2020
Before packing our bags and heading off to Spain, one of the biggest questions my wife and I discussed was Should we get our TEFL certificate?
We didn’t know what to expect when we arrived at our schools, and our nerves were telling us that getting certified wasn’t a bad idea. However, in the end, we decided that we would not pursue getting a TEFL certificate, and if we needed one, we could always get one later.
In this post, we are going to write about our classroom experiences and then finish off by outlining some reasons why you may want your TEFL certification.
Do You Need It to Teach as an Auxiliar?
This is actually a really easy question. No, you don’t. The people running this program know what they are doing, and there is a reason why it is not a requirement. Your main role will be to support the primary teacher, meaning they will be the ones with the skills set to run the class. For this reason, you will be able to learn from them and be supported by them.
Don’t worry too much about prior teaching experience or the fact you don’t have a certificate. All of the teachers we have collaborated with have been amazing. They have been able to leverage guide us as we learn to support their classes and give the students the best possible experience.
I want to explain the typical types of classes we work with. We are fortunate enough to have been placed in both a primary school and a secondary school, so we can give some insight across these.
The schools we teach at are great – they are very flexible and have adapted to us. They provide us with a lot of direction and support, and at no stage have we felt that we needed the TEFL certification.
What Kind of ‘Work’ Can You Expect in a Secondary School?
I will repeat this, your primary role is as an assistant. The teachers will really want you there as a native speaker to ensure the children are getting as much exposure to English as possible. The best thing you can do is just talk a lot. I find secondary school a little easier, because you are able to have conversations with the children. I teach a range of classes although I only collaborate with the bilingual groups. This means they have a certain level of English already. I teach across English, Physics, Chemistry and Geology.
Don’t freak out if you don’t know these topics. Every time I have had to support one of these classes I am provided with ample content and I am really there to help pronounce words. That being said, I am very hands on and enjoy teaching, so the teachers and I have a mutual agreement where I will facilitate some of the classes. I have great students and this allows me to speak as much English as possible with them.
This is how it usually works: we use the workbook for support and for teaching a section that the teacher and I have discussed previously. I might then go ahead and support the content with some anecdotes from my home country or travels. Our biggest goal is just to get the students to use English.
Other times, which I should say is a lot of the time, we tend to make a presentation on a recent event or holiday and how it is celebrated in our country. The teachers will ask if you are able to present on the topic and then, working with the teacher and within our comfort level, we run that week’s class.
In other classes, where we have been a little confused by the content or even when we were too unwell to run the class, the teachers would ask us solely for support. This would mean going around and helping some of the students with tasks when they break off to work.
You won’t have to mark papers, or be expected to teach complex rules off the cuff. We have always been supported and had plenty of relevant content to work with.
What Kind of ‘Work’ Can You Expect in a Primary School?
Primary school is a little different. The students here tend to have a lower level of English because, simply put, they are younger. Also the content we work with is much easier, which is expected.
The kids will adore you, and for this reason they will want to talk in English to you. Expect to be overwhelmed by cuteness. I didn’t understand why it was so important to only speak English until I started. It is because the kids will genuinely try to communicate with you in English. If they work out that you know any Spanish, they give up trying in English.
Our classes here tend to use a lot more songs and activities. It’s a chance for us to show off our creative and silly sides. We teach with a lot of arts and crafts and we tend to help the teachers by going around and supporting the students complete their tasks. This could mean asking them about the colours they’re using or singing songs.
Again, a TEFL certificate is not required for this role. You will have ample support from the primary teacher. The teacher is also so appreciative to have you there. You help make the class a lot more manageable, therefore creating a much more productive environment for the students to learn.
A very accurate drawing of myself by a student – I have never been more proud.
Reason 1 for Getting a Certificate: You Want to Teach Online
This is a great way to supplement your income in all the down time you will have. There are a lot of considerations you should take before jumping into online teaching.
1. Make sure you find a company which allows your nationality to work for it. Being Australian we were surprisingly restricted.
2. Understand the technical requirements you need to teach online. You may need a specific speed of Internet, which depending on where you are placed, can be a challenge.
3. Understand what TEFL certificate is required. Not all TEFL certificates are equal. You have some companies requiring various amounts of hours, and some even requiring classroom hours.
A lot of the companies are just treating this as a check box. They are required that the teachers be certified, so they just need proof of a certificate. They could not care if it cost you $2000 or $2.
Reason 2 for Getting a Certificate: You Want to be a Better Teacher and Pursue Teaching
The TEFL course is a great starting point into teaching. In our case, we are not planning to do this long term, so we didn’t need it for this purpose. Although during our research we found out a lot of information about it.
You will want to choose a reputable course provider. This is not a check box for you, but rather a course in which you plan to learn skills. ConversaSpain offers a certified online course, with the great thing being they would provide you insights on teaching methods and a module for young learners If you decide to teach elsewhere in the world, chances are you will require a TEFL certificate to show you are certified. Everything we read and researched advised completing the TEFL certificate in the country you are wanting to stay in. The reason being is you will develop connections and finding an opportunity should be slightly easier once you are certified.